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«Andrés Gregor Zelman The University of Amsterdam 2002 ii Mediated Communication and the Evolving Science System: Mapping the Network Architecture of ...»

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Mediated Communication and the Evolving Science System:

Mapping the Network Architecture of Knowledge Production

Andrés Gregor Zelman

The University of Amsterdam



Mediated Communication and the Evolving Science System:

Mapping the Network Architecture of Knowledge Production


ter verkrijging van de graad van doctor

aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam op gezag van de Rector Magnificus Prof. Mr. P. F. van der Heijden ten overstaan van een door het college voor promoties ingestelde commissie, in het openbaar te verdedigen in de Aula der Universiteit op Donderdag 26 September 2002, om 12:00 uur door


geboren te London, Canada iii


Promoter: Prof. dr. Stuart Blume, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands Co-promoter: Dr. Loet Leydesdorff, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Examining Board:

Dr. Moses Boudourides, University of Thrace, Greece Prof. dr. Kees Brants, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands Prof. dr. Gerard De Zeeuw, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands Prof. dr. Klaus Schönbach, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands Prof. dr. Donald Theall, Trent University, Canada iv Acknowledgements How does one say thank-you a thousand times without being redundant? That this work is complete signifies the achievement of many individuals – so many people have aided me along this long and arduous path, and I am indebted to all.

My most heartfelt thanks go to my dissertation advisor and co-promotor, Loet Leydesdorff, without whose unceasing dedication to both my project and better well being, this book would never have seen the light of day. You have taught me so much, and I am grateful. I would also like to thank my dissertation promotor, Stuart Blume, and the dissertation committee comprised of Moses Boudourides, Kees Brants, Gerard De Zeeuw, Klaus Schönbach, and Donald Theall. I am most grateful for your participation, comments and insights.

No small thanks go to my colleagues who proofread the dissertation: Joep Cornelissen, Gaston Heimeriks, Gavin Johnson, and Henri Nickels; each of whom have provided me with many useful comments concerning both form and content. Thanks also go to Peter Nitschke, who provided the Dutch translation of the summary; Kevin Fraser and Andrei Mougoutov for the cover artwork; Steven McNabb for his helpful comments on the Media Analysis Toolbox program design; and Michael Curran and Allison Hodges Myerson for the collection of the publication data for the Scientometric analyses.

Additionally, I would like to thank my former colleagues at the Department of Science & Technology Dynamics, and the Amsterdam School of Communications Research (ASCoR), both at the University of Amsterdam. In particular: Richard Rogers, who has afforded me the possibility of pursuing many interesting research avenues; and Koen Frenken, for his insightful interpretations of the threaded email data. A belated thankyou is also due to my Master’s thesis supervisor David Mitchell at the Department of Communications Studies, the University of Calgary. The expansive theoretical education I gained in Calgary led to the development of the History of Mediation, which enabled the development of the Theoretic Triad – so crucial to the conceptual integration of the empirical analyses performed in this study.

I am indebted to Anne Kooij and Sandra Zwier for their assistance with the labyrinth of Dutch administration, and for their unending patience through to the end. Thank-you, also, to the Secretariate of the ASCoR for their continued administrative support.

I wish also to extend my thanks to those who made living in Amsterdam such an enjoyable experience. They include but are not limited to: Stephen Axelrod and Victor Thöne who have been most generous as concerns housing; Thomas Thijssen who was always willing to accommodate; my dear friends Pascal Beys, Pavlina Houbanova, Klaus Jacobsen, and Niels Rigter who have made my life richer in both mind and spirit – I will cherish our friendship always; and my wonderful partner Andrea Sofrova, a fountain of unconditional love, support and inspiration.

Finally, I wish to thank my family for their continued support and patience, and for being there when I needed an ear… thousands of kilometres from home. Thank-you.

Amsterdam, Summer 2002 Andrés Gregor Zelman

–  –  –

The Problematic:

Most contemporary communication depends upon a range of media forms required for its transmission. The relationship between humanity and its technological media has a very long and rich history and arguably the question of how particular media impact social communications is of increasing importance. Current changes to humanity’s modes of information communication far outweigh earlier circumstances, and with today’s accretive use of electronically biased media for communication the need to understand these changes has never been more salient.

Media are central to communication. We use media in every facet of our lives:

gestural, oral and written communications, mnemonic techniques, and rules of language can all be considered as media, and they should be understood as mutually implicated phenomena. Media use does not occur in a vacuum but in situated contexts and along historical contingencies – whereby social relations are networked (Meyrowitz 1985, 1994). The phenomenon of mediation is therefore best understood historically. Understood in this broadest connotation media are central to social organization, and by extension they are central to processes of knowledge production.

Isolated events (or communications) can be measured, analyzed, and compared, but it is in understanding their social and historical interrelation that we gain perspective on the impact that media have on different social processes and institutions. This study provides a diachronic analysis of the distribution or sequence of selected mediated communications, and thereby provides an additional system of reference than purely synchronic analyses of singular, or individual cases. The central thesis of the dissertation is that print and electronic media foster unique types of media environment, and that an analysis and comparison of the respective distributions of keyword use, publication behaviour, and threaded email messaging behaviour of academic communications will demonstrate the role of each medium in processes of knowledge production and meaningful exchange.

The functioning of all social institutions depends upon information and the communication of said information. Melody (1996) argues that information can be considered as a ‘stock’ concept, and communication as a ‘flow’ concept – both provide a particular perspective upon processes of information transmission. ‘Stock’ is best understood here as an ‘archive’ of shared knowledge, or information, and ‘flow’ as the process of knowledge production and exchange. Information and communication, thus defined, thereby provide different analytical positions on essentially the same phenomena. We use this differentiation as an initial perspective from which to frame this study.1 Knowledge production is best defined as an achievement and codification of meaning through the communication of information.

Importantly, for Melody, attempts to assess long term social implications of technological change in 1 the fields of information and communication are especially difficult because of the complex methodological problems of network analysis – in particular, that new networks are differently 3 The print medium is essential to academic performance and this renders it a central place in questions concerning knowledge production. And importantly, there is an increasing use of electronic communications in academe to distribute and exchange information via web-pages, email list-servers, electronic archives, etceteras. The central problematic identified here concerns the centrality of media to human communication, and the ability to assess the impact of different media on the academic environment given their overlap. The focus throughout this analysis will be upon the primary differences between print and electronic media form. Poster (1990,

1995) identifies the differences between print and electronic media in terms of the ‘modes’ of communication they foster. This study emphasizes the impact of media on processes of academic knowledge production, and by extension, focuses on the different modes of communication implied within the use of different communications media.

The analysis is limited to the use of several specific media in the context of a research project funded through the Fourth Framework Programme of the European Commission. The Self Organization of the European Information Society (SOEIS) research project2 incorporates a series of studies among six European research institutes.3 The SOEIS was selected specifically because it employed a diverse set of media in its manifestation, and because it both relied upon and challenged theoretical reference points similar to those addressed herein.

The Literature

The study itself is motivated by a number of current debates concerning the impact of electronic media on the academic environment.4 A central assumption here is that with changes in the mode of communication one can expect changes in the networked relations among those communicating. Thus the key point here is that new electronic means of communicating one’s research are perceived to supplement already existing relations between scholars, and this is expected to impact the exchange dynamics of information and knowledge producing institutions. Print writing, for example, can be understood to incorporate architectural, network, and systemic properties. An essential point of departure for an analysis of changes in the mode of academic communication or changes in modes of knowledge production in academic environments must therefore compare the architectural, network and systemic features of print and electronic communication.

structured than mature, developed networks (1996;269). In this study we overlay old and new networks and through their interrelation aim to discern differences. It is important to acknowledge that new electronic media disrupt the institutional structures into which they are inserted, and in this sense the networks fostered via print have not yet adapted to the new conditions either. Also see: Freeman & Perez (1988) Targeted Socio Economic Research (TSER) program, European Commission: SOE 1 - Dt97 – 1060.

2 3 Three Japanese institutes were also associated with the SOEIS via its sister project: the SelfOrganization of the Japanese Information Society (SOJIS).

For debates concerning the impact of electronic media and the changing nature of academic research, 4 see: Melody 1994, Lubanski 1998, Geser 1996, and The Information Society, Volume 11, special issue on the Harnad-Fuller debate, 1995.

4 Similar concerns have been addressed from a sociological perspective. (Gibbons, Limoges, Nowotny, Schwarzman, Scott & Trow, 1994) These authors describe the changing nature of scientific research as a shift from Mode I to Mode II knowledge production which indicates a move away from knowledge produced in traditional research contexts to an environment in which knowledge is created in broader transdisciplinary social and economic contexts. This development, they argue, is related in part to the introduction of electronic media into academic environments. Similarly, two significant OECD publications (1996, 1997) recognize these changes in the academic environment as part and parcel of the introduction of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). The current study is grounded by such claims, and aims to assess the impact of ICTs on the science system through an analysis of the collective SOEIS research endeavour.

Metric analyses concerning the relationship between the dynamics of mediated communication and of the changing science system have been performed in recent years. This type of analysis is central to this thesis; the metric approach itself stretches back hundreds of years, and the body of literature addressing metric approaches is growing extremely rapidly. Addressed here are those analyses that concern changes in the modes and media of communication and the accompanying impact on processes of knowledge production. In particular, the concern lies in those approaches that pursue metric analyses to address these issues, as they provide the means to operationalize the theoretical perspectives that ground this study as a general heuristic lens to aid in the analyses. By way of an introduction to metric analyses a brief history of textual analysis is provided – it was the early development of textual analysis techniques that eventually led to what became known as bibliometrics.

Historically speaking, bibliometrics and scientometrics are both products of our receding print mode of communication and cybermetrics is a product of the emerging electronic mode of communication. Together they form a long lineage of metric techniques, each of which are relevant to our inquiry into the commensurability between metric approaches and varied theoretical priorities. Stated another way, this analysis rests on the cusp of those approaches which view mediated communication as a symbolic phenomenon and the metric approaches that aim to model its properties.

This relationship is addressed in Chapter II: Theoretical Grounding where the relevant theoretical literature is reviewed, and again in Chapter III: Materials & Methodologies where individual metric techniques are aligned with the respective communicative domains of the SOEIS selected for analysis. For the present, the concern lies in observing those studies that employ metric approaches for their respective strengths and weaknesses.

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